Feb. 27, 2014 at 9:10 AM ET
“Is this local?”
That was the question asked most seriously of a restaurant’s chicken dish on the hit IFC show “Portlandia,” launching a surreal adventure in which a couple investigates the organic upbringing of their dinner.
“His name is Colin,” a waitress informs them of their fallen fowl. “Here are his papers.”
It’s that type of silly, hipster-poking fun mentality — led by stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein — which fosters an obsession among the show's fans, who are gearing up for the season four premiere on Thursday. That includes New York chef and City Grit culinary salon founder Sarah Simmons, who devotes a dinner each year to "Portlandia"’s tasty absurdity. All courses pay homage to the most popular sketches, which means a menu of raw food salad, "Prairie Home Companion" soup and more.
“'Portlandia' does such a killer job of making fun of the ridiculousness of food trends, but also gives me some cool ideas, which is why I love doing this dinner,” Simmons told TODAY. “The food is its own character in the show, whether the skit is based around the food or meal or it’s just in the background.”
Simmons is such a dedicated viewer (and chef) that she actually flew to Portland during Marionberry season, inspired by the show’s “Brunch Village” sketch, which mentioned the under-the-radar berry. “I bought three bags of berries, vacuum-sealed them, flew back to New York City and froze them, just so we would have them to make Marionberry pancakes [three months later] at City Grit,” she said. “I think that makes me an official fan… and crazy.”
It’d be an understatement to say that the satirical sketch comedy show is fascinated with food: the teaser for the new season, featuring actor Steve Buscemi, centers around the plight of the celery, which never quite found the foodie fame of its trendier contemporaries, Brussels sprouts and kale. Other popular skits call attention to our nation’s pickling frenzy (“We can pickle that!"), our obscene willingness to endure long brunch lines, and even the immense undertaking of splitting a restaurant bill.
“I couldn’t miss an opportunity to bring some of the crazy food scenes from the season to life,” said Simmons, whose dinner sold out last year.
So we had to ask: Is Sarah’s chicken…local?
The answer is yes, the birds are local — and they’re fabulous.
“All of our chickens enjoy a daily routine of SoulCycle, trips to the spa, shopping in Soho and a diet of pimento cheese, gumbo, and hushpuppies,” the chef joked. “Seriously, we do spend a lot of time looking into the farms from where we purchase our proteins. Serving sustainable food is critical to our overall mission as a business.”
In honor of Thursday's episode of "Portlandia," Simmons shared a few of her treasured recipes inspired by the show. Serve them to your loved ones — and make sure you have your ingredients’ papers ready: